What’s Missing?

What’s Missing?

Do you ever get the feeling that ‘something’ is missing in your day-to-day handicapping and playing the races (other than profits!)?  For me, it tends at times to become a bit of a drag.  I’m not referring to the “burn-out” factor (which rears its ugly head now and then), but to the fact that it is a never-ending game . . . and a never-ending game with no opponent.

We’re always playing against the “crowd.” When we win – there are hundreds of others who also won on the same horse.  We get no special kudos for having picked a horse that hundreds of others also smoked out.  When we lose – thousands of others also lost that race, so though we lost a few bucks, we haven’t really “failed” because we have so much company.

Want a change?

What is it that makes boxing, or tennis, or poker different?  The identifiable, individual opponent.

The human being is a competitive creature, and a risk-taker – and when the two are combined – well, many of us revel in that type of situation. The juices really get flowing. Some are poor losers of course, but even magnanimous winners feel a bit of extra glow deep down.  It just feels better to “kick ass” against a real opponent – and the better that opponent’s skills – the better we feel about beating him/her.

The relatively recent rise in popularity of the handicapping contest – and more particularly the “head-to-head” style contest – gives that option back to horse players. In the head-to-head contest, you play against one opponent – with a name (or moniker).  Win or lose – you can meet again in the future – which also adds a bit of good ole’ fashioned “revenge” into the mix.

On most of the online contest sites, you can find out each players record – how many contests he enters, how much money (not profits) he wins, etc.  This allows you to either try and find opponents that you know are of a certain level and easier to compete against, or it allows you to step up to try those more seasoned – those who are more or less making the contest scene their main thing.  As well, of course, you can choose to stay at the lower money levels and be perhaps a shark among the minnows for small stakes, or you can step up to the higher stakes games where other tough sharks are cruising and looking for easy pickings.

Either way – it takes the game back to the ‘lone gun-slinger’ format – you live or die (figuratively) on your ability and sharpness on a given day against a single challenger.  Handicapping skills are the major factor, but also game theory, or at least game-playing strategies often become part of it. (Maybe we’ll talk about various contest strategies in a future post.)

Betting in the head-to-head contest is essentially like basic 11-10 sports betting – you get back your bet plus your opponents bet – after the house takes their 10% vigorish.  So to make any real money you need volume, or higer stakes – AND – you must be good enough to beat your opponent/s 6 or 7 times out of ten confrontations!

It is still horse racing – and lady luck will make herself known. You can beat the best or get beat by the worst in any given contest, so confidence and sharp play are a must – even in the ‘softer’ levels.

If nothing else, the head-to-head contest format puts a couple of missing elements back into the game: It’s fun again . . . and it’s personal!


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